(I conclude my critique of creation ex materia)
Fourth, we will address one inductive argument using scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe. In the middle of the nineteenth century, several physicists discovered the Second Law of Thermodynamics by noticing that all processes within a closed system tend toward a state of equilibrium.[i] This law was first formulated by stating that heat flows from high temperature to low temperature and this process cannot reverse without some energy applied. This law accounts for the confidence we have when stepping into a bath that the water is not frozen at one end and boiling at the other. This law was developed further by recognizing that all systems move from a more ordered state to a less ordered state.[ii] This disorder was connected with entropy, such that the greater the disorder, the greater the entropy. The law is now formulated that “all systems have the tendency to pass from a state of lower entropy into a state of higher entropy.”[iii]
There are two important obstacles that can prevent the Second Law of Thermodynamics from occurring. One is that the law deals with probabilities. It is conceivable that the bath water you step into could be frozen at one end and boiling at the other, yet the odds make this practically improbable. A second contention is that the system itself must be a closed system with no energy leakage or input.[iv] By definition, the universe is, on a naturalistic view, all that there is and therefore a closed system.
Copan and Craig explain that this law implies that the universe (including all its processes) will eventually “run down” and come to an equilibrium known as the heat death of the universe. This death will involve one of two possibilities. One option is that the universe continues to expand until the gravitation attraction between the bodies slows down the expansion to a halt. The universe would reverse expansion and eventually contract into a hot fireball. A second more probable option is a cold death as the universe will expand forever at a slower and slower rate until all the stars burn out and reach a final state where no change occurs.[v]
If the universe is a closed system and entropy increases as time progresses, then on a Mormon view of an eternal universe, why hasn’t it already reached maximum entropy (or heat death)? If the universe has always existed, then there has been plenty of time for the universe to have reached this state of equilibrium. Since the universe is still in disequilibrium, it follows that the universe has not been going on forever, but had a starting point when it was “wound up.”[vi] The universe must have been created by God ex nihilo with this initial low entropy some finite time ago.
Ostler makes an interesting comment before addressing this scientific evidence stating that “it is more reasonable for me to question the acceptance of the scientific evidence as a basis of religious belief rather than reject my religious beliefs.”[vii] Although I can sympathize with Ostler that historically scientific theories have changed, nevertheless rejecting the conclusions from Second Law of Thermodynamics leaves Mormonism out of touch with reality. In any case, Ostler does attempt to avoid the conclusions of this scientific evidence by distinguishing between our “local universe” and the “multi-verse.” This later universe consists of all that exists in any sense, which Ostler claims is where God exists outside of our “local universe.” Our own universe is just a pocket universe and since astronomy can only tell us about our “visible universe,” we are unable to know anything outside of it.[viii] This is surprisingly ad hoc and avoids engaging with the evidence. First, why would we assume that the Second Law of Thermodynamics does not apply in this “multi-verse”; such that the same conclusions would follow (that it began to exist as well). Second, this move is familiar to atheist responses to the overwhelming evidence for design in the universe (anthropic principles). To avoid the conclusion of a Designer, some atheists stipulate an infinity of universes and we just happen to be in the right one “fine-tuned” to allow for life. I can generate many logically possible situations, such as we are all living in a “dream world,” or a “Matrix” created by artificial intelligence and only think we are in “reality,” but this moves into “fantasyland” based upon the “unknown” that cannot be proven. In the same manner, postulating a “multi-verse” is pure conjecture and beyond epistemic access; seemingly to avoid the conclusions of scientific arguments. From what we do know, empirical evidence shows that the universe began to exist some finite time ago and the doctrine of creation ex nihilo stands comfortably in alignment with modern science.
For the final part of this paper, the theological implications of creation ex materia and creation ex nihilo will be examined. If the idea held by ancient Greek and contemporary Mormon philosophers is correct, then an independent, pre-existent eternal matter existed with God — affirming a metaphysical dualism. If this is so, the fundamental character of God is finite because he is intrinsically limited in his very nature. Matter and energy that is coextensive with God would have its own properties that he would have not ultimate control over. Also, God could not create anything he wants and thus his creative activity is constrained. One would be hard pressed to continue to call this being omnipotent as he is unable to create or destroy matter. It also seems fortuitous that this eternal matter was available to God; otherwise God would eternally exist with no creation and could hardly be called Creator.
Philosophers and theologians alike have described God as “the being than which nothing greater can be conceived”, as the being who cannot not exist, or as the Being who exists in all possible worlds. The necessary existence (or aseity) of God could not be established on the creation ex materia view;[ix] in fact, it appears on the Mormon view that matter itself is infinite, whereas God is finite. This hardly appears to be a being worthy of worship.
Christian theism, on the other hand, affirms the fundamental difference between Creation and Creator through the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. God and the world are ontologically distinct, such that God is uncreated, infinite, eternal, necessary and changeless. Creation (on this view) is created, finite, temporal, contingent and changing.[x] Confusing these differences affirms a form of idolatry as the nature of divine sovereignty is compromised.[xi] God is in ultimate control over matter since he created it from scratch and is responsible for sustaining it moment to moment. He is the one who created matter and established its capacities and potentialities while determining the laws that exist to govern these things.
There is one last theological implication on these views stemming from the problem of evil. Both Mormons and orthodox Christians believe there is evil. The argument against God from evil goes as follows: If God is all powerful (omnipotent), all good (omnibenevolent) and all knowing (omniscient), he would and could destroy evil. Since evil exists, it follows that there is no all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing God. However, another option is available; that the being that exists is missing one of those attributes. On the Mormon view, God is limited (lacks omnipotence) and thus they believe they escape the problem of evil. As Geisler describes this view, “Thus, there is something about the extent and nature of matter over which even God has no ultimate control. He simply has to work with the world and do the best he can under the limitations it places on his creative powers.”[xii] Although I have no intention of answering the problem of evil from an orthodox Christian viewpoint, the infinite power and perfection of God guarantees the eventual defeat of evil. Mormonism has no such assurance.
It is evident that for biblical, philosophical, and scientific reasons, creation ex materia should be rejected for creation ex nihilo. A strong cumulative case has been made to demonstrate that the writers of the Bible (OT and NT) presupposed that God created out of nothing beginning with the first verse and supported eventually by Jesus who is included in the divine creative act. Even the Mormon Bible leaves open the possibility for creation ex nihilo and other more difficult passages can be interpreted under a two-stage creation. The philosophical evidence provided demonstrates the impossibility of an actual temporal regress of events, which implies that the universe (all that exists including matter) began to exist. Similarly, an inductive argument using the Second Law of Thermodynamics also points to a universe that was “wound up” some finite time ago. Last, the theological implications of creation ex materia should itself alarm the reader to a being that does not deserve to be worshipped.
For Mormons, God does not transcend the laws of nature but exists in space and time as a finite physical entity. However, Copan and Craig note that since the 1960s a movement known as “Mormon neo-orthodoxy” has arisen, emphasizing the distinction between God’s necessity and creation’s contingency.[xiii] Some Mormon scientists have also affirmed the doctrine of creation ex nihilo and advocated a reinterpretation of Mormon scriptures.[xiv] Orthodox Christianity can only hope that more Mormons follow suit.
[i] Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, “Craftsman or Creator?” in The New Mormon Challenge, 141.
[ii] William Lane Craig, The Kalam Cosmological Argument, 130-1.
[iii] Ibid, 131.
[v] Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, “Craftsman or Creator?” in The New Mormon Challenge, 142-3.
[vi] William Lane Craig, The Kalam Cosmological Argument, 132.
[viii] Ibid, 7.
[ix] Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Creation Out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration, 25.
[x] Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, 2000 ed., s.v. “Creation, Views of,” by Norman Geisler.
[xi] Paul Copan, “Creation Ex Nihilo or Ex Materia? A Critique of the Mormon Doctrine of Creation”, 32-54.
[xii] Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, 2000 ed., s.v. “Finite Godism,” by Norman Geisler.
[xiii] Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, “Craftsman or Creator?” in The New Mormon Challenge, 152.
[xiv] See David H. Bailey, “Scientific Foundations of Mormon Theology,” in The Search for Harmony: Essays on Science and Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993).